Read An Excerpt

by Vanessa Kelly

Genre: Regency Period, England, Historical Romance

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A sudden heat flared in his eyes. Bathsheba shivered, like the first time he had looked at her that way. Longing transformed the hard lines of his face, and she saw once again the passionate man who had made love to her in the blazing sunlight of a summer’s day. 

Then the flat gray look in his eyes returned.

“You came all the way to Smithfield just to apologize to me?”

She hesitated. “No. There is something else I must ask you, if you have a few moments to spare. I promise I won’t take up any more of your time then is necessary.”

She could sense his disappointed retreat, but he recovered quickly. “Of course, my lady. Why don’t we go upstairs to the Great Hall? It’s slightly more private than the front entrance. We can sit in one of the window alcoves.”

Taking her arm in a light grip, he guided her up the staircase. She studiously avoided looking at the Hogarth paintings—the gruesome one, anyway.

“How are you feeling?” he asked. “Have you seen a physician since you’ve returned to London?”

“It hasn’t been necessary.” 

He snorted, making his disapproval clear. Her spirits began to lift ever so slightly.

“Truly,” she said, “I feel perfectly well.”

He shook his head and muttered something under his breath, tightening his hand just a fraction around her arm. She repressed a triumphant smile. Perhaps he didn’t trust her, but he obviously still worried about her.

They entered the Great Hall. Bathsheba paused, surprised by the elegant and spacious beauty of the room. She had never imagined a hospital would look like this—all polished wood and carved oak friezes, and a fretwork ceiling that wouldn’t be out of place in the mansions of the ton. But the men and women who passed through the hall were nothing like the inhabitants of Mayfair. Plainly dressed, they moved with purpose, serious people intent on serious business.

With a gentle nudge, John steered her to an out-of-the-way alcove that held a few square-backed chairs. He handed her into one before sitting down beside her.

“What can I do for you, my lady?”

“For one, you can stop referring to me as ‘my lady.’”

His silver eyes grew cold as a lake frozen by the first blasts of winter. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time we spoke, you instructed me to only address you by your title.”

She blushed. How could she have forgotten that?

“Oh. Perhaps that would be better,” she said, wishing she could disappear in a puff of smoke.

He folded his arms across his chest and sighed. “Whatever am I to do with you?” He sounded more resigned than exasperated.

Tears prickled behind her eyelids, catching her off guard. She blinked them away, praying he wouldn’t notice. 

“I realize this is awkward,” she blurted out, “but—”

He reached over and engulfed her tightly gloved fingers in the warmth of his big hand. His thumb caressed the inside of her palm, sending tingles of heat through the fabric to her skin. The words she had been about to utter died on her lips.